Photos: The Link Up DC is building a happy community on wheels



On a Saturday evening in early September, I stopped by the Anacostia Park skating pavilion for one of the monthly events organized by the link DC, a community driven roller skating team. DJ Prodigy played hip-hop while families and vendors cooked dinner on grills just outside the rink. Sweet treats were sold from trucks and carts that circled the pavilion, and people lined up to collect their free rental skates. The park was buzzing with energy and there was an intoxicating sense of celebration in the air.

I spent part of the summer photographing the Link Up events, and I couldn’t miss this “Early 2000s” party, themed around the decade of my adolescence. Here are some of the photos I took that night, as well as at the “It’s 1980 Something” get-together in July and the “Tribute to the 1990s” event in August.

The atmosphere of these events is both exhilarating and playful. Fashion plays a big role: skaters arrive dressed for the occasion at all themed outings. And as for the roller skates themselves, all styles are in the spotlight, from the most chic to the most vintage. Exploring other people’s wheels is an event in itself.

In the early summer of 2021, longtime friends Pejay Camacho and Darren Jackson roller skated almost daily in Anacostia Park, trying to recapture the love they had for the activity as kids. . But it was also a way to take care of their mental health during those socially restrictive days of the pandemic. At the park, they met Wallace Loving, aka DJ Prodigy and a locally known skateboarder who grew up in the neighborhood. The three of them soon bonded and formed the Link Up DC, with a mission to build and support mental health in the local community.

Nearly 500 people showed up for the first Link Up event in July 2021 at the Anacostia Park skating pavilion. The Link Up quickly teamed up with Friends of Anacostia Park, a non-profit group that strives to connect the park with surrounding communities, to organize free monthly events. The events of this first summer focused on important issues such as suicide prevention and breast cancer awareness. Those who were directly affected attended the events and shared stories of grief and triumph with their fellow skaters.

“It’s not about skating,” Jackson said. “Skating is the icing on the cake. It’s a matter of community.

Alexandria Appah, founder of the Chocolate city skate Instagram account, has been skating alongside Link Up since last summer. She spoke to me about the importance of the events, particularly in the black community, while noting that it is a place where everyone is welcome. “It’s an ongoing tradition to create spaces for ourselves” in a city with a history of discriminatory practices, says Appah, who is black. “The Link Up, to me, means community, safety, inclusivity and joy – all things every community deserves.”

At a Link Up event, you’ll hear or see the phrase “Snap City,” which refers to the skate culture in the district. The snap is a transition of one foot on the roller skates back and forth and back while moving. “I’m proud to say I’m a snapper because I feel like we’re the underdog,” Jackson said. “I personally think we have the best, toughest and most dope style.”

Link Up’s presence has grown throughout the city. This spring, he hosted a series of cherry blossom-themed events over several days at the Wharf’s outdoor ice rink, and he hosted family skates and events like Glitter Roll and Safari in White at Hook Hall in Park. View.

The Link Up’s last late-night outdoor skate of the year will take place October 29 at Anacostia Park. It’s a Halloween-themed costume party, of course, and the Link Up DC is also asking attendees to bring a new or lightly used coat or blanket for a donation drive.

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